by Al Benson Jr.
Although it is an issue seldom discussed, the prevailing theologies of both North and South contributed mightily as one of the main reasons for the War of Northern Aggression. I have stated in the past that the tariff was an issue that was alive and well before the start of the war--and so was the theological issue.
This is an area almost no one is willing to touch. Yet another one of those carefully and studiously ignored issues, which, if even mentioned in some circles, might just take away from "the war was all about slavery" propaganda. And so the theological issue must be swept under the rug, and today's Leftist "historians" most fervently hope that no one will ever bother to pick up the corner of the rug and look underneath.
In his book "The South Under Siege 1830-2000" author Frank Conner has told us: "The Northerners who actually mounted te ideological war against the South were led primarily by ex-Congregationalist ministers. Although the issue they pushed was the abolition of slavery, in fact they were fighting a religious war--of secular humanism (ideological liberalism) against Christianity in America, using the South as their battleground."
"Their ideological war is one of the two key factors which largely explains the history of the relations between the North and the South from 1830 until now (the other is economics)." Mr. Conner has correctly noted that:"...ideological liberalism is a religion that generates radical-left politics." I have no problem agreeing with him there. We can also say that such a religion is the result of apostasy from the Christian faith.
C. Gregg Singer in his "A Theological Interpretation of American History" noted that: "After 1830 there was a growing philosophical cleavage between North and South. While the North was becoming increasingly subject to radical influences, the South was becoming increasingly conservative in its outlook." The noted Presbyterian theologian James Henley Thornwell put it thusly: "The parties in this conflict are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders--they are Atheists, Socialists, Communists, Red Republicans, Jacobins on the one side and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is the battleground--Christianity and atheism the combatants, and the progress of humanity is at stake." One might well wonder, given the bloody excesses of the 20th century, how the "progress" of humanity has fared.
Professor Singer has informed us that those who founded the Southern Presbyterian Church saw something in abolitionism far more penetrating and subversive than a mere protest against the evils of slavery. He says "They saw it as a continuation of the French Revolution, motivated by the same philosophy and pursuing the same ends. They saw it primarily as a humanistic revolt against Christianity and the world and life view of the Scriptures. They saw in it an expression of democratic philosophy which left no place for a sovereign God and accorded all prestige to a sovereign humanity instead."
This radical outlook and the plague of Unitarianism were what pervaded much of the North in the few decades before the War of Northern Aggression. Although the Unitarians were never exceedingly numerous, the fact that they had a number of the New England elite among their ranks contributed very much to their influence over much of the North. Although there were, no doubt, some sincere Christians in the Abolitionist Movement, there were also many Unitarians, who, having rejected the divinity of Jesus Christ and the infallibility of Holy Scripture, had an abiding hatred for the South, which had experienced somewhat of a spiritual revival in the 1830s and was more Calvinistic in its faith after that. The Unitarians had mauled Calvinism in the North, especially in New England, and now they most fervently desired to do the same thing in the South. Their radical, Christ-denying mindset helped much to set the tone of thinking in the North in the decades before the war.
The Unitarians and socialists had many views in common, and it did not bother the Unitarians one whit that there were so many socialists in the Union armies. Both groups hated God and wanted to ban Him to total irrelevancy and thereby make autonomous man the measure of all things--the "captain of his own soul." In their view the highest expression of man was the state--and therefore--it was up to the state (government) to instuct the rest of us how to live and what to think, and to then make sure we all did that via appropriate legislation, all for our own "good" of course. Would-be dictators of all stripes always seem to know what is "good" for the rest of us (themselves exempted naturally). And what seems to be "good" for us is usually better financially for them.
Although there were Christians in the North before the war, the Unitarian apostasy had so infected and infiltrated many Northern churches that it affected the Northern mindset and predisposed it toward an unreasonable hatred toward an increasingly Calvinistic South.
As much as many seek to deny or ignore them, the theological issues involved in the War of Northern Aggression were very real and they need to be further explored and discussed, as do the biblical reasons for secession--yet another issue of professional Leftist "historians" have neglected to inform us about.
(This article originally appreared on the Sierra Times website.)